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Experts gather in Alberta to focus on fentanyl crisis
CTV Calgary Staff
Published Monday, October 17, 2016 8:47AM MDT
Last Updated Monday, October 17, 2016 7:15PM MDT
A two-day conference is taking place in Calgary and Edmonton to bring together law enforcement and members of the health care community to talk about how to deal with the fentanyl situation in Alberta.
The conference kicked off with series of speeches from Calgary Police Service investigators and provincial officials, including Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley.
Patrol officers and border agents shared their ideas and experiences with the deadly drug, which has killed more than 270 people in Alberta in the last year.
CPS Deputy Trevor Daroux says the information sessions are part of a series of meetings that began in B.C.
"As we move through this series of conferences, we are learning more all the time, hopefully getting better at addressing this issue."
Daroux said that with nearly 300 people taking part in the conference, it shows how vital fentanyl prevention is. "What's equally as critical is the diversity of disciplines here today."
He said that in dealing with fentanyl, law enforcement has been pushed towards looking at both sides of the equation; supply and demand. "In order for us to be successful against fentanyl, we have to be looking across the continuum, from education, prevention, intervention, treatment and, of course, enforcement."
Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley says that fentanyl continues to pose a considerable threat to the people of Alberta and meetings like the one in Calgary are important to keep moving forward.
"In a world that is often filled with misinformation, this sort of work towards evidence-based solutions is more important than anything. Your contributions are critical to moving the ball forward on this front."
Ganley said people are facing a life and death situation when it comes to fentanyl. "From January to June of this year, there were 153 people who died in Alberta from apparent drug overdoses related to fentanyl. This compares to 139 people who died from fentanyl overdoses over the same period last year."
She says that opioid abuse has been a problem for decades in Alberta, but fentanyl has taken it to a whole new level. "The problem isn't new, but the deadliness is."
Ganley says that the province has been working with Ottawa to ban drug products that can be used to create fentanyl.
"As a result, Health Canada has announced it would be working to restrict six chemicals used in the production of fentanyl. This restriction will benefit Albertans and Canadians."
RCMP Inspector Allan Lai says that police have seen a significant increase in the fatality rate connected to fentanyl.
He says that there is also a concern over carfentanil, a drug estimated to be over 100 times more powerful than fentanyl.
"Just this past summer Canada Border Services Agency in Vancouver intercepted a one kilogram shipment of carfentanil destined to Calgary from China just weeks before the Calgary Stampede," Lai said. "With the assistance of Calgary Police Services, one person was arrested in Calgary."
Lai says there is no single solution for fentanyl. "There are many strategies to tackle this growing problem so I challenge you to have these conversations and come up with solutions beyond just law enforcement."
A powder re-processing lab was also set up to give participants a closer look at how fentanyl is made.
Police say that underground fentanyl manufacturers don't control the amount of fentanyl that goes into each tablet and that can have fatal consequences.
"A lethal dose of fentanyl, for an average person, is two milligrams," said CPS Staff Sergeant Martin Schiavetta. "Hot spots are pills with more than two milligrams of fentanyl. Some of the pills we have seized in Calgary have been 4.6 to 5.6 milligrams, which is very high."
The Government of Alberta has taken measures to reduce the impact of fentanyl in the province and have improved funding for law enforcement and provided grants to communities for drug awareness programs.
The province has also increased the availability of free, Naloxone kits, boosting supplies from 3,000 to 13,500.
For more information on fentanyl and the take-home naloxone program , click HERE.